If You're 65 or Older, it's Time to get Your Pneumococcal Shot

If you're 65 or older, it's time to get your pneumococcal shot. This vaccine will protect you from pneumococcal disease, a serious bacterial infection.

Who needs the Pneumococcal Vaccine (PPSV)?

  • All adults 65 and older
  • Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Anyone 2 through 64 who has a long-term health problem such as: heart disease; lung disease; sickle cell disease; diabetes; alcoholism; cirrhosis; leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or a cochlear implant
  • Anyone 2 through 64 with a disease or condition that lowers the body's resistance to infection, such as: Hodgkin's disease; lymphoma or leukemia; kidney failure; multiple myeloma; nephrotic syndrome; HIV infection or AIDS; a damaged spleen (or no spleen) or an organ transplant
  • Anyone 2 through 64 who takes a drug or treatment that lowers the body's resistance to infection such as: long-term steroids; certain cancer drugs or radiation therapy
  • Any adult 19 through 64 who is a smoker
  • Any adult 19 through 64 who has asthma

Will I need another shot?

If you get this shot for the first time when you are 65 or older, you will not need another shot. If you are 65 or older, you may need a second shot (a booster) if you:

  • received this vaccine more than five years ago (before you were 65);
  • have any type of transplant;
  • have chronic kidney disease and/or
  • you have a compromised immune system.

If you're not sure whether or not you need a booster, contact your health care provider.

Is it safe?

This vaccine is safe and effective. You can get this shot at any time of the year and most people have no side effects.

What is pneumococcal disease?

It is a severe bacterial infection that can affect your lungs, blood and brain. Older adults are at high risk for complications from both this disease and the flu. Therefore, it's best to get both shots. Pneumococcal disease causes your lungs to become inflamed and makes it harder to breathe (pneumonia). Thousands of older adults are hospitalized with pneumococcal disease every year. Half of all deaths from this disease are among people 65 and older.

Symptoms

Pneumococcal disease usually causes a fever, cough and shortness of breath. If it infects the brain (meningitis), it causes a headache, stiff neck and confusion or sleepiness. It can also lead to bacteremia, a bloodstream infection.

Complications

People of all ages can get pneumococcal disease, but it is especially dangerous for older adults. Your risk of serious illness or death is even higher if you have one or more of these chronic conditions:

  • Lung disease (for example, emphysema)
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease

The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is to get vaccinated. You can further protect yourself by getting a flu shot every year; eating well; getting physical activity and by staying tobacco-free.